Monday, May 4, 2009

Samael - Medieval Prophecy (1988)

Samael was founded in April 1987 by Vorphalack. In 1988 at the beginning of the summer, Pat (the first drummer) left Samael to form another band. He was replaced by Xytraguptor, from the same blood as Vorphalack. Their first demos presented a slow, doomy style of thrash metal with raw vocals, similar to that of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. In October they recorded their 7" E.P. Medieval Prophecy.

The E.P. begins with "Into the Pentagram". The sound is about as raw and necro as it gets, with a slow, doom-filled pace and an inhuman voice screaming in the distance. The production is pretty horrible, being quite reminiscent of the Hellhammer demos. Of course, this only adds to the dark feeling created by this Swiss Black Metal band. The tempo picks up a bit, going into more of a mid-paced thrash riff, but never exceeding this. The atmosphere is evil and dark, with a somber touch. Several minutes into the song, everything fades out and the haunting melodies are replaced by hellish and tormented sounds. These create a very uneasy feeling. Slowly, a dark harmony bleeds through and takes hold of your mind. All goes quiet again as you hear a demonic voice cry out.

"Into the pentagram!"

The Hellhammer influences are obvious, yet Samael manages to surpass what they had accomplished, for the most part, creating a much darker aura than the majority of the songs on Satanic Rites or Apocalyptic Raids.

The next song is "The Dark". This instrumental maintains the hauntingly dark and bleak atmosphere of the previous song. The intro features only an acoustic guitar and the bass, working together to create something truly sinister. As the guitars rise up and rage forward, another influence becomes apparent in the guitar harmonies. It seems to have some influence from the NWOBHM bands. The song isn't entirely bereft of any vocals, but they seem to take on the form of background screams and whispers, appearing for but a few brief moments. Though the approach is different from the previous song, it shares the same dark and epic feeling.

The E.P. concludes with a cover of Hellhammer's "The Third of the Storms". The execution isn't as tight as the versions on Satanic Rites or Apocalyptic Raids (as difficult as that is to comprehend), but the vocals are much more fitting for the song. For one reason or another, Samael opted to skip the lead solo, taking something away from the song. It is alright, but not as good as the original. The only improvement would be the harsher vocal style.

Medieval Prophecy is an impressive E.P. At a time when Black Metal still dwelled farther beneath the surface than it would a few years later, this cemented Samael as a band to contend with and lead them on the path to releasing a full-length album. Pick this up if possible, as it is a highly recommended piece of 80s Black Metal history.